FARGO, N.D. - A Bowman, N.D., Soldier who received the Silver Star medal last month was honored again today, this time with the North Dakota Legion of Merit award.

Sgt. 1st Class Mark A. Wanner, a former North Dakota Army National Guard Soldier, received the North Dakota Legion of Merit for "extraordinary disregard for his own personal safety while engaging the enemy to save the life of a fellow Soldier." Wanner, who lives in Bowman, serves as a Special Forces medic with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, presented the award in front of about 500 Guardsmen gathered for the Professional Development Workshop in Fargo. Wanner's wife, Martha, their sons and his parents also were able to attend.

"I want to congratulate Mark and tell him how proud we are of him and his whole family," Hoeven said.

The Legion of Merit is the second highest state-level commendation in North Dakota. It follows Wanner's receipt of a Silver Star, the third highest decoration in the armed forces, which is awarded for valor in action against an enemy of the United States.

"My understanding is that since the Global War on Terrorism began, there have only been 23 members of the National Guard who have received the Silver Star, and two of those 23 have North Dakota roots and have served in the North Dakota National Guard. That's pretty incredible in my mind when you think of our roots and how we serve our nation," Sprynczynatyk said.

Col. Michael Wobbema, North Dakota National Guard deputy director of the joint staff, read the Legion of Merit's citation: "Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wanner began his military service in 1990, as a member of the 816th Engineer Construction Support Equipment Company, North Dakota Army National Guard. He later served as a combat engineer in the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion until 2000. Recently, as a member of the Ohio National Guard, on the 31st day of May 2009, while serving as a senior medical sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Wanner exhibited extraordinary disregard for his own personal safety while engaging the enemy to save the life of a fellow Soldier, for which he has received the Silver Star. His duty performance serves as a testimony to his unselfish commitment to his fellow Soldiers and his dedication to the defense of this nation. Sgt. 1st Class Wanner's 20 years of service to this nation and the Army National Guard reflect great credit upon himself, as well as the states of North Dakota and Ohio."

Wanner thanked those present, especially his family for their support of his work in the military.

"It all started out here, the first 10 years of my career," Wanner said of the North Dakota National Guard. "Just that first weekend, I knew this is what I wanted to do. It all goes to duty, honor and brotherhood. Duty is the easy one. ... Putting on the uniform is no problem to serve. Honor ... we will lead the way. Brotherhood, boots on the ground, down range, it doesn't matter, it's all about your brothers next to you and anybody in this room, if we were in that same situation, I'd do the same for every one of you."

Wanner credited his team's competence with helping the situation in Iraq end as well as it did.

He was previously honored in Ohio during a ceremony in which the Silver Star was presented. The man Wanner is credited with saving, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Clifton, spoke that day, saying that, "I'm standing here alive because of the heroic and competent actions that Mark performed." Watch the video of that ceremony and Clifton's acknowledgement of Wanner's actions on YouTube: www.youtube.com/NDNationalGuard.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 800 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.

For more information
Ohio National Guard News Release: Ohio Soldier awarded one of nation's highest medals for valor

Youngstown Vindicate, Silver Star Recipient

High-resolution photos to accompany this release will be available on Flickr later today. Go to www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard and navigate to the photo set titled "Professional Development Workshop."